What you need to know:
- Police said security patrols have been intensified in the region against hate-mongers and individuals promoting violence.
- Uasin Gishu County Commissioner Stephen Kihara said they have identified hideout areas for criminals behind the banditry in the region.
- Governor Stanley Kiptis urged the government to change its strategy in dealing with runaway insecurity that has claimed many lives and displaced thousands.
The killings in the Kerio Valley in armed bandit attacks and stock theft, recollections of the 2007/2008 post-election violence and reviving collapsed projects dominated Madaraka Day celebrations in the North Rift region as security chiefs and leaders warned against violence ahead of the August 9 polls.
Speakers at celebrations marked in Uasin Gishu, Baringo, Elgeyo Marakwet and West Pokot counties condemned the attacks that have claimed more than 100 lives and displaced hundreds of families, with some faulting the government over its response strategies and others accusing politicians of fuelling the killings.
They demanded a crackdown on bandits behind the retaliatory raids, noting that the region deserves peace.
“We cannot continue to preach peace when lives are lost in senseless attacks by armed bandits. There is a need for peace building and promoting harmonious relations among communities in the Kerio Valley region,” said Uasin Gishu County Commissioner Stephen Kihara.
The Marakwet community in Eldoret held a peace caravan along the Eldoret-Uganda highway to the Huruma grounds, where the celebrations were held, and demanded a lasting solution to the protracted armed conflict in the Kerio Valley.
“What is happening in Kerio Valley is demoralising when all parts of the country need peace. The attacks are no longer about cattle raids or banditry activities but the criminals have changed tack and are out to kill and loot property,” said Uasin Gishu Deputy Governor Daniel Chemno.
Politically instigated violence
While evoking the losses of the 2007/2008 post-election violence, the leaders cautioned against politically instigated violence during election campaigns, noting that all candidates have the right to promote their manifesto irrespective of party affiliation.
“What is the purpose of elections if there will be loss of lives? We need to learn from what happened in the 2007/2008 post-election violence and promote peace. There will be only one win in the polls,” said Mzee Chumba Kurgat.
On high alert
But Mr Kihara said security patrols had been intensified in the region against hate-mongers and individuals promoting violence.
“We have identified hideout areas for criminals and are monitoring those out to promote hate speech. What we need is peace building and not acts of violence,” said Mr Kihara.
Rift Valley Regional Coordinator Maalim Mohamed said security personnel are monitoring events in areas viewed as violence hotspots and asked political candidates to observe the Public Order Act in their campaigns.
“Any politician who disobeys the Public Order Act by holding meetings without notifying police will have the [event] annulled,” warned Mr Maalim.
Uasin Gishu and Kericho have been named among six violence hotspots.
“Parallel meetings will not be tolerated and all aspirants have a responsibility to maintain law and order in their campaigns,” said Mr Maalim.
He called on residents to report to police any cases of threats for necessary action to be taken against the perpetrators.
“Our security officers are on the ground gathering utterances made by politicians and other individuals and those found fuelling [ethnic hatred] and animosity will face the full force of the law,” added Mr Maalim.
Change of strategy calls
In Baringo, speeches on incessant banditry and stock theft in Baringo North and Baringo South sub-counties and on the border with West Pokot dominated Madaraka Day celebrations, with political leaders criticising the government on its response to the violence.
Governor Stanley Kiptis, who led the festivities at the Kabarnet Museum grounds, urged the government to change its strategy in dealing with runaway insecurity that has claimed many lives, displaced thousands of people from their homes and closed social amenities.
He condemned Wednesday’s killings of two people in an attack that also left a police officer injured in Kosile village in Baringo North.
“We know the government has tried to bring sanity to the insecure border areas in Baringo County, but we are appealing for a change in strategy to deal with those criminals,” he said.
“The proliferation of firearms is the cause of the perennial problem and it is high time that civilians in possession of illegal firearms are disarmed.”
The white helicopter
The governor also questioned why the Ministry of Interior was yet to investigate a white helicopter allegedly seen landing in the bandits’ hideouts before attacks happened.
“We have received several reports of a copter landing in the banditry-prone areas and a few days’ later locals are attacked,” the governor said.
“What is it carrying and what is its mission? The locals in this region need an urgent explanation from the government because we suspect it is connected to the spate of killings.”
County Commissioner Abdirisack Jaldesa regretted that although the region is endowed with enormous resources, their exploitation has been hampered by insecurity, making it lag behind in development.
“We have made several efforts to restore order in the border areas, but when we are almost making [progress], attacks are reported. But we will not be cowed by a few criminals,” he said.
Mr Jaldesa said police would flush out the bandits from their hideouts.
“We want to see all schools in the affected villages reopened and displaced locals [returned]. I am appealing to all neighbouring communities in this county to coexist peacefully,” he said.
Monitor politicians calls, movements
In West Pokot, Governor John Lonyangapuo urged the government to disarm everyone along the border, asking security organs to monitor the movements and phone calls of certain politicians that he said are inciting locals.
"Those politicians inciting locals should not be elected. Let them be recorded and be held accountable,” he said.
He criticised politicians that he accused of visiting the county to insult leaders and incite locals.
"Let us minimise political noise and groupings. I have asked and written a letter to some of the politicians asking them to stop visiting the county and inciting locals,” he said.
Put on the spot
He cited Elgeyo Marakwet Senator Kipchumba Murkomen and Nandi Governor Stephen Sang for frequently visiting the county, accusing them of insulting and demeaning other leaders when they do so.
"I am the one who trained Sang and Murkomen, but I was shocked they recently visited the county and maligned and soiled other leaders. Let them be barred from visiting the county if they are about spreading hate speech," he said.
He said leaders coming for meaningful and development-oriented politics were welcomed in his county.
"Kipchumba Murkomen and Nandi Governor Stephen Sang were my students in college. We took dowry for Sang while in the Senate. I have written a letter to those leaders and they must style up,” he said.
The Kenya Union Party (KUP) leader said some of the leaders have politicised the security challenge along the border of West Pokot, fuelling tension and retaliatory attacks.
The governor noted that Chesegon and Tot have become inhabitable despite being fertile for farming and other agricultural activities.
"Politicians should stop pretending. When we are together in one party, there is peace. When we are not in their party, there is no peace. We should learn to live peacefully despite our political affiliations,” he said.
He urged the government to disarm bandits causing havoc along the border of West Pokot and Elgeyo Marakwet, warning residents about political groupings in towns and urging them to surrender illegal guns or be disarmed.
Name and shame
He said that bad politics was creating animosity along the West Pokot and Elgeyo Marakwet border, adding that they would soon name and shame inciters
West Pokot County Commissioner Apollo Okello asked politicians to take responsibility and help improve security in the region.
"Leaders should not wait until killings happen to come around with choppers to address the media,” he said.
He also warned bandits killing residents that they would be killed on the spot. "We shall kill them on the spot. We shall not entertain people to walk around with illegal guns," he said.
Most political leaders, however, skipped the event in West Pokot.
Low turnout in Nandi
In Nandi county, Governor Sang did not show up at the event that was marked by a low turnout at the Kapsabet Showgrounds, but was represented by Land executive Dr Philemon Bureti.
Nandi County Commissioner Herman Shambi told leaders in the county to attend celebrations as a sign of respect for freedom fighters who lost their lives for Kenya to attain its independence in 1963.
Mr Shambi called for political tolerance, assuring the public in Nandi that security officials were alert and would deal with any acts of lawlessness and incitement during and after the General Election.
“A report from the National Cohesion and Integration Commission has indicated that Nandi is one of the counties in Kenya where violence is likely to be witnessed during the electioneering period, but the government has taken action to ensure chaos do not erupt,” he said, urging county and religious leaders to promote peace.
Peace calls in Bungoma
In Bungoma, Governor Wycliffe Wangamati and County Commissioner Samuel Kimiti led the celebrations at the Nalondo stadium in Kabuchai sub-county, where speakers called for peace ahead of the August polls.
The governor urged politicians to exercise restraint in their utterances on campaign podiums and to shun retrogressive politics that can ruin the country.
Politicians who attended the ceremony urged the county commissioner to guarantee them safety as the official campaigns kick off.
"We just want a quick response from police, especially at night, in case of any distress calls," said Senate aspirant Jacob Machacha
Mr Kimiti cautioned youths against being used by politicians to cause unrest at functions and rallies, warning that the law will deal with them firmly.
(BARNABAS BII, FLORAH KOECH, OSCAR KAKAI, TOM MATOKE and BRIAN OJAMAA)